"Lessons from Mizzou: A Campus Conversation" Address

Lessons from Mizzou: A Campus Conversation 

November 20, 2015
President Schill’s remarks

Welcome, everyone. I am pleased to see so many people joining us today, and I am very thankful to have the opportunity for our campus to have this conversation.

We are a campus that embraces diversity, encourages equity, celebrates our differences, and stands up to racism.  The problem is that we have failed to do enough to achieve these values.  We need to do better.  We need to bring our level of action up to our level of rhetoric.

We must, as a great university confront these challenging issues thoughtfully and honestly.

While events at the University of Missouri, and before that in Ferguson and elsewhere, may have brought these critical racial-justice issues to the national collective consciousness – we all know these issues are not new. Long before black students and their allies rallied at the UO last week, people of color across the nation and here on our campus have felt disenfranchised, angry, isolated and oppressed.

I know these students have not felt heard, and may feel like they’ve been beating this drum for a very long time without action. I understand that. But I am here today to say we are listening.

I am listening, and I am committed to doing my best to address these concerns.

I also understand that this isn’t an easy conversation, for our campus or our nation. Talking about racism and inequities makes people uncomfortable.

It requires self-reflection.

It requires those in power to acknowledge their privilege.

It requires change and problem solving.

It stirs strong emotions of hurt, defensiveness and distrust.

But this discomfort is an essential part of progress, because if this was easy, we wouldn’t be here today.

So again, I am here to listen and to understand what our black students are experiencing, but also to listen to our faculty and staff of color, and to listen to everyone in our community. It will take every one of us to move forward to creating a truly inclusive campus.

This is what I’ve heard so far from the people at the rally and from the black student leaders I met with last week following the march:

  • People feel angry, isolated and disrespected.
  • They are tired of talk and want action.
  • They feel the university needs to do a better job addressing their frustrations.  
  • They want to see more students, faculty and staff of color on our campus.
  • They want more support for their specific needs.
  • They are affronted by the historical remnants and reminders of racism that still exist on our campus.

Those are just a few of the things I heard, and I know there is more. It will take time to hear and to understand all of the issues.

Some of these requests will be easier to achieve than others, but I believe we can make good progress in the coming weeks and months on most if not all of those requests.

For example, I will be commencing a process to review the names of buildings that have racist historical roots. The university is already considering a proposal to change the name of Dunn Hall and many have mentioned Deady Hall too.  I plan on discussing with my Faculty Advisory Council on Monday how we should move forward with an inclusive, deliberative, yet expeditious process.

The most important things I want our black students, as well as all of the underrepresented groups on our campus to know is that:

  • I want more diversity on our campus. 
  • I want more diverse faculty teaching in our classrooms. 
  • I want our students—ALL OF OUR STUDENTS-- to feel supported and be able to focus on your schoolwork without worrying about safety or feeling isolated. 

I am committed to taking actions—deliberate actions—but actions to make progress toward these goals.

I am committed to this, and I am committed to you.

Thank you.